Five years ago, ataxia was an unfamiliar disease to Patrick Bradley and Patty Carney- Bradley. They knew little about it, but they had heard that Minnesota Twins legend Bob Allison had it and eventually died from its complications.
“If you grew up in Minnesota, you knew Bob Allison because he was one of the great baseball heroes,” says Bradley, who grew up in Austin, Minnesota, as did Carney-Bradley. “I used to get my first sunburn of the year at a Twins game,” he says.
Today Bradley and Carney-Bradley not only know what ataxia is, but they’ve become advocates for research into this condition and other neurodegenerative diseases through their support of Diamond Awards.
They have made gifts to the annual event, which benefits the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC), since 2004, increasing their gift size each year. They became Home Run-level sponsors of the 2009 event with a $7,500 gift.
“It’s an event around a great American pastime for a great cause,” Bradley says. “How could you not want to go?”
The couple were introduced to BAARC by John Marcotte, a colleague of Bradley’s and a member of BAARC’s board of directors. They were impressed as they talked to the scientists about their work, but they became even more engaged when they learned that University ataxia researchers were collaborating with investigators studying other brain disorders to help find solutions for all of those diseases faster.
“With my mother having had Alzheimer’s, my interest was piqued,” says Bradley, who is now a BAARC board member himself. “It’s communication breakthroughs that allow scientific breakthroughs.”
Today he and Carney-Bradley say they’re happy to spread the good word about the neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disease research happening at the University of Minnesota, their alma mater. And a fun, upbeat event like Diamond Awards makes that easy, Carney-Bradley says.
“There’s such a sense of hope, which I think is so important when you’re talking about such serious illnesses,” she says.